People often assume that coastal towns are synonymous with high prices. But if you do your homework, you can vacation at one of the world’s most dazzling beaches without spending a fortune.
GOBankingRates used Skyscanner.com to source some of the best hotel deals in the most picturesque seaside locations. To minimize vacation spending without minimizing the fun, research flight deals and other savings opportunities in advance. Adam Annen, public relations manager at HomeAway, also advises bargain vacation hunters to check all possible lodging options (hotels and rental homes), prepare meals instead of eating out and take advantage of laundry facilities to avoid unnecessary luggage fees.
If the ocean is calling your name, find out what it costs to visit these coastal towns known for their beauty.
This charming coastal town offers some of the best East Coast beaches for a summer escape. For a whimsical view of this seaside paradise, opt to take a DIY lighthouse tour.
With six iconic beacons located within 20 minutes of the city, a self-guided driving tour is a memorable, free way to get the lay of the land before stuffing your face with freshly caught lobster and other local delicacies. For another perspective — and photo-worthy views — take a Casco Bay boat cruise for $15 per person and scope out the playful seals and nesting osprey the area is known for.
Portland offers a broad array of accommodations for any budget, from bed and breakfast facilities and cabins to standard hotels and even campgrounds. You can score a three-star hotel room for less than $200 a night in July or pay even less in the shoulder season.
Kauai isn’t known for being a budget-friendly island, but with a little pre-planning, you can make your Hawaiian vacation affordable. Known as the Garden Isle, Kauai offers plenty of tropical flora and fauna to see while hiking and biking. Waimea Canyon and the Napali Coast are fan favorites and offer the most picturesque views for photos. You can camp on the beach for as little as $18 a night or pay around $75 for a modest B&B.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Myrtle Beach provides some of the best East Coast beaches for families. With more than 60 miles of shore, sun and fun are never far away. Additionally, the Myrtle Beach tourism board offers discounts on numerous attractions, including water parks, adrenaline-pumping thrill rides and even helicopter rides for just $20.
For a more personal touch, rent a room on Airbnb. Prices start at $53, with an average room rate of $187.
Boasting 260 days of sun a year, this town features a medieval walled city made famous as a “Game of Thrones” filming location. Photograph the Old Town’s terracotta rooftops before riding the cable car for unbeatable views of the city, azure water and neighboring Montenegro.
It’s not the easiest or cheapest place to fly to — you’ll most likely have to connect through Zagreb, Croatia — but the affordable accommodations can minimize the sting to your wallet. Nightly hotel rates average just $51.
Monterey has a lot going for it. Not only is it one of the most picturesque stops along California’s iconic coastal highway, but it’s also one of the largest wine growing regions in the state, rivaling even Napa. There are more than 60 tasting rooms in the area, many of which offer sample flights for $10.
Hotels are a bit pricier, with three-star accommodations starting around $250. But if you want to rough it, some state parks in Big Sur allow camping for just $35 a night.
Amelia Island, Fla.
Chosen by Condé Nast Traveler as one of Florida’s top 10 beaches, Amelia Island is a hidden gem less than 30 minutes from the Jacksonville airport.
A nature lover’s paradise where sea turtles come to lay their eggs and whales frolic in the winter months, this island is one of the only places in the nation that allows horseback riding on the beach. It’s a bit of a splurge at $75 an hour, but the experience is well worth it. And the average price for an Airbnb is just $97, with rooms starting at $24, so you won’t break the bank.
The Hamptons, N.Y.
The Hamptons is known as a playground for the rich and famous. But even if you’re traveling on a budget, that doesn’t mean you can’t act the part. While some East Coast beach resorts do average $2,000 a night, many hotels in Southampton and Westhampton cost around $100 a night in the off-season.
A lot of the restaurants in town allow you to dine without the upscale attitude. Fierro’s Pizza dishes up classic New York-style pizza, while Dockside Bar & Grill offers reasonably priced lobster rolls. On select nights, the Beach Hut snack bar boasts a family-friendly lobster fest, along with live music. There’s nothing better than good eats paired with free entertainment on the water.
A resort town nestled in scenic San Diego, Coronado boasts beautiful beaches and an idyllic Main Street. The best way to explore this coastal town is by renting a kayak or paddleboard ($18 to $25 an hour) and hitting the water.
When you’re ready to dry off, wander the historic downtown for some people-watching or grab a beach cruiser bike or surrey ($12 to $25 per hour) to ride along the boardwalk. You can also head for the Coronado Bridge for the best skyline views. Airbnb rooms average just $183 per night, so you won’t break the budget on this beachside blowout.
Outer Banks, N.C.
The Outer Banks is one of the most popular spots for an East Coast beach vacation, because it appeals to both families and those seeking some romance. If your kids like creepy crawlies, ghost crab hunting is popular after dark, while Jockey’s Ridge State Park offers the tallest natural sand dunes on the East Coast for exploration. You’ll want to climb Bodie Island Lighthouse ($10) for the best views of the sun setting over the water. Best of all, the average price of an Airbnb is just $138.
Venice Beach, Calif.
Known for its eccentric boardwalk, Venice Beach offers sensory overload in all the right ways. Street performers spontaneously break out into song, which will temporarily distract you from the sights and smells of the tantalizing oceanfront eateries.
Take a stroll along the canals for what feels like a free trip across the pond. A neighborhood in trendy Los Angeles, Venice is on the pricey side. However, you can score Airbnb rooms here for around $238 a night, on average.
Located on the French Riviera, Cannes is known for its fabulous international film festival but finds favor with travelers year round. Stroll the Promenade de la Croisette, overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean, to get your bearings. You can window shop on Rue Meynadier, or take a ferry to four islands for around $20. And with four-star properties available for as little as $91 a night in July, you’ll have plenty of cash left for crepes and pastries.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
One of the most luxurious resort options south of the border, Cabo is not the spring break destination you probably associate with Mexico. Sunbathing is the main attraction here, as it’s the perfect place to relax with a tropical drink and watch the waves crash on the sand.
For the best photos, take a water taxi to El Arco, a natural rock formation where sea lions enjoy basking in the summer sun. Four-star rooms will set you back just $77 in the summer, making it an affordable luxury getaway.
Without question, one of the best coastal towns in Italy is Venice. Although it’s a popular tourist destination, you can still jet across the pond to this site if you budget correctly.
Four-star hotels can be found for as little as $83, if you do your homework. The big splurge should be a gondola ride, as it’s one of the signature experiences and the best way to explore the canals and colorful architecture. Expect to pay $90 for a 40-minute ride.
Pensacola is one of the most overlooked East Coast vacation spots on the Florida panhandle. One of the earliest European settlements in the U.S., this beautiful beach town is sprinkled with historical sites and boasts tons of free attractions, including the naval museum, bird and wildlife trails, Blue Angel shows and live bands every Tuesday on the beach in the summer. Rooms can be found for as little as $123.
Key West, Fla.
Offering some of the best beaches on the East Coast, the Florida Keys feel worlds away even though they’re located within an hour’s drive from Miami. And the trip on the iconic U.S. 1 Overseas Highway is part of the fun.
Once you arrive, be sure to rent a snorkel ($9), as the incredible biodiversity, living coral reefs and shipwrecks make the area a preserved National Marine Sanctuary. Airbnb rentals average about $211 per night in this hot spot.
Dunedin, New Zealand
A lesser-known spot on New Zealand’s South Island, Dunedin is an untapped gem for nature enthusiasts. Part of the volcanic Otago Peninsula, the area is teeming with wildlife such as fur seals, sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins and the only mainland royal albatross colony in the world.
The region is also a birder’s haven, and you can view 17 native species at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary for a $19 entrance fee. Four-star hotels can be found for as little as $42 a night.
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
While Bali is on many travelers’ bucket lists, they often assume it’s out of their price ranges. However, the exchange rate with Indonesia is heavily in our favor, making this a great spot for a cheap island getaway. Full of rainforests and terraced rice paddies, Ubud is also worth visiting for its beautiful temples and beachside yoga.
A not-to-miss highlight is the Sacred Monkey Forest, a sanctuary that’s home to more than 700 macaque monkeys. These curious little creatures are happy to pose for photos, and entry costs less than the price of a cup of coffee. You can find five-star guesthouses for $19 or less in this seaside paradise.
When you close your eyes and imagine a tropical paradise, you’re likely picturing a place that resembles Boracay. Powdery white sand, flowing palms and dazzling water are just some of the features that make this destination a must-see.
Additionally, travelers can experience unique highlights like the Tir Shell Museum and the Bat Caves of Yapak. The Philippines is extremely affordable, with four-star resorts starting at $52, so you’ll have plenty of cash left to charter a boat and scope out the famous sunsets by sea.
Rich with coastal resorts and cruise ship dockings, Bodrum is known as the St. Tropez of Turkey. History buffs should check out the Mausoleum of Mausolus (entry is just $3), which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This port town is sprinkled with ruins, but the modern nightlife makes for a real “East meet West” vibe. Five-star hotels can be found for as little as $75 a night in this paradise.
Atlantic City, N.J.
Often dubbed the Las Vegas of the East, Atlantic City is one of the most iconic East Coast vacation spots. And if you skip the slots, there’s plenty of fun to be had for $10 or less.
Climb the Absecon Lighthouse, play the quarter arcade games on the boardwalk and rent a bicycle to experience this beach town on the cheap. If you’re looking for a memorable vacation on the East Coast, you’ll definitely discover a nostalgia for classic Americana in Atlantic City, where Airbnb rooms average $211 per night.
All prices are based on travel from July 22 to July 23, 2017, which is the height of the summer season. Unless otherwise specified, hotel rates are for three-star accommodations found on Skyscanner.com.